The Belle & Antoine wine bar recently introduced weekly lounge evenings in a bid to bring a certain brand of London-New York culture fusion to the Tel Aviv scene. Every Tuesday, musical duo Yuval and Ido entertains the Belle & Antoine audience with a range of cover songs played over three sets, beginning with a mellow and relaxing mix and slowly warming the audience up for some livelier hits.

On the evening that my companion and I went to check out the lounge, the self-described Parisian bar was bursting at the seams, not an empty seat in sight, with tables and chairs spilling out onto the street. People of all generations had ventured out that summer evening, making for a refreshing change to the youth-dominated clientele of most Tel Aviv bars.

The vibe at the bar – located on the corner of Ben- Yehuda and Jabotinsky – was relaxed, intimate and merry as customers sipped wine and munched on Frenchinspired food. We perched on our seats at the bar, where a vast selection of wines are showcased above a line of antique corkscrews. From the wide range of French, Spanish, Israeli, Italian, South American and New Zealand wines, I opted for a glass of Italian Allegrini, while my date chose an Israeli Flam. From the menu we ordered two dishes: an endive salad with peas, avocado, poached eggs and goat cheese (NIS 46); and a demi-baguette with smoked salmon, tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, green beans and poached egg (NIS 44). The salad was delicious, but we were less impressed by the baguette which, while tasty, rather resembled a fancy pizza and was not what we were hoping for.

The rich chocolate mousse (NIS 32) that the barman served us for desert, on the other hand, entirely won me over.

Yuval and Ido put on an excellent show, bringing together a winning combination of food, wine and music. The pair wooed the crowd with old-school legends including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson, with Yuval on the guitar and Ido on keyboard.

Amy Winehouse, Jamiroquai, Oasis and Marvin Gaye covers also featured during the evening.

The bar staff were attentive and maintained the fun and friendly atmosphere, shouting all the customers to a shot of limoncello during one of the intervals.

During their second set, Yuval and Ido invited a guest on stage – Isatto, who proceeded to wow the crowd with his beat box skills. After the show, the pair informed me that every week they invite a different guest to join them.

Indeed, they assured me that every week is very different, as they play cover music for the crowd. Throughout the show, they improvise according to the audience’s response, they explained.

The two young men met years earlier at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music but only much later decided to form a duo. Yuval, 28, went to England, where he studied at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. The British music scene captured him, and he returned to his homeland with a mission – “to raise the bar… and bring live music to Israel.” And so he and Ido, 24, banded together for the first time and brought the idea to Belle & Antoine.

And it works. The two complement each other naturally, and no one would have guessed that they have been performing together for only a couple of months. Their vision is to generate competition and see live lounges spring up across the country. “I want competition,” Yuval asserts. “I would be thrilled.”

The live lounge certainly does provide a pleasant way to wind down mid-week. While the duo’s grand dream for Israel may still seem distant, an evening out at Belle & Antoine won’t disappoint.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

Belle & Antoine
Not kosher
196 Ben-Yehuda Street, Tel Aviv, 057-941-4952

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